In advance, develop a list of fun, energetic small team-based activities.
Create a very large paper game board that features 40 to 60 squares on it and mark one-quarter of them with the word ACTIVITY inside them.
Lay the game board on the floor of a large indoor arena and place a bunch of dice in the centre.
Form random small teams of 8 to 12 people and invite them to gather together on the outside of the board.
Distribute the list of activities to one or more volunteers or colleagues who have been assigned to supervise the teams.
Distribute a unique token or object to identify each team.
Announce that each team will be invited to move their token – from an assigned starting point – multiple times around the game board by rolling the dice and moving the corresponding number of spaces forward.
When a team lands on a square marked ACTIVITY their supervising leader will describe the task as identified by its number on the list.
As soon as the team has accomplished this task, they may resume rolling the dice to progress around the game board.
When a team lands on an empty square, they may roll the dice again to move forward.
Play continues for 30 to 45 minutes, or as soon as the first team has completed a prescribed number of rotations of the board.
How To Play Narrative
I developed this idea whilst working as a Camp Leader at Blue Star Camps, North Carolina for five years, hence its name. For several of those years, one of my primary roles was to mix and occupy approximately 300 staff for an hour or so, all at the same time, as part of the staff training program of ‘evening entertainment.’
My first job was to list a bunch of short, often energetic and very fun tasks that were ideal for a bunch of randomly formed small groups or teams to accomplish together, eg shake the hands of at least three people in another group.
There is no shortage of zany activities you could come up with, but if you’re not sure where to start, click here to view a list of 30+ options to whet your appetite.
Next, you want to build the biggest paper game board you have ever seen, complete with squares that run around the perimeter of a game board, not unlike the commercial board game Monopoly. I used long strips of roll-paper, taped together to create four corners and then painted a series of lines to create the squares.
Inside each square, I painted a large number, and on every third or fourth square I painted the word “ACTIVITY.” Thinking back, I reckon the board had close to 60 squares and there were 20 or so that were devoted to small group activities.
To help imagine what I’ve just described, have a look at the sample game board I have included in the Resources tab.
For added effect, I also created and painted a number of square cardboard boxes to look like huge dice. Regular playing dice work fine, of course, but I figured that if everything else was going to be as large as life, the dice should be too.
Once you have these two arduous tasks out of the way, you are ready to go.
Lay the paper game board on the floor of your rather expansive indoor arena. Once your group gathers, separate them into a number of small teams of 8 to 12 people, perhaps adopting one of the random mixing strategies as described in Getting Into Teams.
As these teams form, ask them to gather and sit outside the perimeter of the game board.
Place a few (big) dice in the centre of the board (to be shared by all groups,) and distribute a list of activities to a nominated ‘leader’ (perhaps volunteer your colleagues) who will supervise each team.
Before starting, distribute or ask each team to offer a unique object that can be used to identify their position on the game board, eg hat, shoe, toy, etc. To spread the energy of each group – at least in the beginning – I strongly recommend that you also direct each team to start from a different square of the board.
For example, if your game board has 60 squares and you have 10 teams, start one team about every 6 spaces apart on the board.
When ready, announce that each team will be invited to move their token as many times around the game board by rolling the dice and moving the corresponding number of spaces forward. All teams start at the same time so there is no waiting for turns, although on occasions some teams may need to wait to roll the dice, ie presuming you have fewer dice than teams.
Explain that every time a team lands on an “ACTIVITY” square, their leader will consult the list and announce the activity identified by that number, eg when a group lands on square #26, they will be invited to complete the corresponding activity on the list.
Upon accomplishing this fun task, the team will be entitled to roll the dice again.
Naturally, if the team lands on an empty square, they simply roll the dice again to progress forward.
This progression of activity may continue for a specific length of time – 45 minutes – or every team continues to rotate around the board until the first team announces that they have completed every activity on their list. Or, more likely, the game comes to a natural pause because everyone is knackered!
I have never seen this activity fail to deliver extraordinary results. Key to these outcomes has been the opportunity to mix, interact and enjoy an outrageously fun time together.
Practical Leadership Tips
The list of activities is best kept a secret, but this is not critical. If you are on your own, then by all means distribute the list of activities to each small team in advance. You could also write the directions of the activity inside each square.
A further benefit of assigning volunteers or colleagues to supervise one or more teams is to keep teams honest. That is, as the competitive fervour builds momentum, some teams may start to bend the rules a little and perhaps not complete each task fully.
You need a big space for this game. Outside will work, but if your game board is made of paper, laying it on a solid floor (rather than grass or dirt) will make it more durable.
You could integrate BlueStarOpoly as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain the development of healthy and supportive relationships in your group, not to mention navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of play and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the social interactions required to play BlueStarOpoly successfully may speak to the benefits of focusing your group to develop healthy and supportive behavioural norms. To be fair, this is true of all group activities as much as topics including leadership, adaptability, emotional intelligence and goal-setting.
Adding to a unique variation described in the Variations tab, if you can think of more explicit ways in which BlueStarOpoly could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Set Rotations: Assign the numbers on the squares of the game board to correspond to a number on the activity list. Invite each team to rotate around the board a prescribed number of times, eg 4 or 5. Depending on the fate of their dice, most teams are unlikely to participate in the full list of activities during this time.
First Past The Post: When a team first lands on a square marked ACTIVITY they complete the first task on the list (which is the same for all teams.) When they next land on a square marked ACTIVITY, they complete the second task on the list, etc. Play continues until a team is the first to complete every activity on the list.
Back & Forth: Add squares that reward and penalise teams as they land on them. For example, “MOVE TWO SQUARES BACK” or “TAKE A LOLLY FROM THE JAR.”
Specific Focus: Relate all of the activities on the game board to a specific theme of your curriculum, such as health & wellness. For example, you could develop a list of health and wellness tasks such as “Perform five push-ups” or “List the names of all of the bones in the human leg” or “Elevate your heart rate above 100bpm for 20 seconds.”
Take a look at Be Prepared to engage your group in a similar team-based game involving a range of zany tasks.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, create a game board that can be displayed as a slide created with a Padlet that you can share with your virtual gathering, ie view the sample game board in the Resources tab as a guide. You will also need to create a list of individual-based activities that can be accomplished online (admittedly, team-based tasks are more challenging.) Share this list of tasks via a separate screen or padlet for all to see. When ready, invite each person to create their own virtual play token, eg upload a small avatar connected to a dialog box. Then, using dice or another random device, invite each person to inch their way around the board, completing the various activities as they land on those marked accordingly.
Naturally, an honour system applies in this context in regards to the completion of the various tasks, not to mention the moving forward of one’s token.
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Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly energetic large group game:
Describe what it was like to work in your small team.
What were some of your most favourite tasks to complete?
What was one of your least favourite tasks? Why?
Did you learn anything about another member of your group during this activity?
How might this activity reflect something about the life of your group or even your own life? Give examples.
The inspiration for BlueStarOpoly was developed during my time as a camp leader at Blue Star Camps in NC, USA during the early 2000s. It was a huge hit and subsequently featured in the following publication: